Philippine Laws on Divorce, Separation, & Annulment

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Philippine Laws on Divorce, Separation, & Annulment

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Unlike western countries, the family code laws in the Philippines forbid divorce. The Philippines, with 80% of its population being devoutly Roman Catholic, is only one of two countries in the world that prohibits divorce, with the other being the smallest country in the world—Vatican City. So, how can you dissolve your marriage in the Philippines?

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Filipino laws permit legal separation, but only under specific circumstances. Also, couples are allowed to annul their marriages, which means that the marriage that was once considered valid, never existed.

Divorce In and Outside of the Philippines

Article 15 of the New Civil Code imposes the prohibition of divorce on Filipinos married in their home country, no matter if the couple lives in the Philippines or abroad.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, a couple may get divorced if one spouse is from another country or the native Filipino spouse has been nationalized in a foreign country. In this case, the nonnational spouse, or the Filipino nationalized in a foreign country, must file for divorce in their home country, not in the Philippines.

The Filipino Congress has made strides towards permitting legal divorce. In January 2018, Senate Bill No. 2134, otherwise known as the Divorce Act of 2018, was introduced in the Filipino Senate. In this bill, an absolute divorce is permitted under certain circumstances, such as:

  • The occurrence of physical abuse
  • The exhibition of “grossly abusive conduct"
  • Psychological incapacity
  • Marital rape
  • Irreconcilable differences despite efforts to reconcile
  • Separation for at least five years

In March 2018, the Filipino House of Representatives approved House Bill No. 7303, which seeks to legalize absolute divorce, after more than a decade of previous legislative attempts to do so. This bill has been sent to the Senate, with no further action.

Separation May Apply Under Certain Circumstances

Under Filipino law, couples can petition a court for legal separation, but only under specific circumstances. In the Philippines, a legal separation is the dissolution of marital obligations, including any established relationships regarding property between the couple.

However, to file for a legal separation, the couple must establish reasons for the court to grant their request. These reasons, or grounds, include repeated physical abuse, abandonment, drug addiction, or imprisonment of more than six years, among others. If the court grants a legal separation, the couple still may not remarry, as the marital legal relationship continues.

Annulment Is the Best Option

As of now, an annulment is the best option for Filipinos to end their marriages. An annulment invalidates a marriage because of fraud, impotence, mistaken identity, or being under the legal age to marry.

Although Filipino law permits annulments, the legalities are lengthy, pricey, and tedious. If a court grants an annulment, both parties can move forward as if never married, leaving each person free to remarry. The marriage, in essence, never existed under an annulment.

Unlike an annulment, a voided marriage occurs when the marriage was invalid from the beginning. For example, if one spouse was under 18 years of age when married, that marriage is void by law. Additionally, if an unlicensed official performed the marriage ceremony, then that marriage is void.

Legally ending a marriage in the Philippines is not an easy task. Although the movement supporting divorce has increased, it could take years for the Philippines to permit absolute divorces. If you are seeking to end a marital relationship in the Philippines, consider hiring a skilled attorney who is familiar with the local laws.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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